Monday, August 30, 2010

Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce

Today is the first day of my new food and travel blog, with the inaugural subject being Tomato Sauce. Specifically, Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce. Yesterday was the 10th Annual event which took place at my friend Paul's studio. Every year for 10 years we've gotten together to make homemade tomato sauce. The tradition started September 15, 2001 just after 9/11 stunned the world. We had plans to go to a friend's cottage for the weekend, but we were so shell shocked from the news that was coming out of NYC that we decided to stay in the city, get back to basics, and soothe ourselves in an age-old culinary pursuit — making homemade tomato sauce! 

Presto — A tradition was born. Tomato Sauce Day starts with buying 2-3 bushels of fresh local roma tomatoes and harvesting our own home grown herbs and peppers, when we can. Paul is the alchemist and creates the aromatic base of olive oil, garlic and a bouquet garni of oregano, thyme and italian parsley, in a large cooking pot. The tomatoes are blanched in boiling water until the skins are loose and wrinkled, squeezed by hand, eliminating the excess water and seeds, then added to the pot with a couple of hot peppers. The sauce is left to simmer 3-4 hours, until it transforms into an intoxicatingly rich complex flavour. It takes the good part of a day to make our way through the 3 bushels of tomatoes, with the obligatory pause for a glass or two of wine!

Mid morning, Paul and I made a brief but wonderful detour across the street to the Liberty Farmer's Market, leaving my husband Guy behind in charge of the Tomato Sauce!  We bought some hot peppers for the tomato sauce and also made a visit to the 'Cheese Lady' —  the charming purveyor of Monforte artisanal cheeses (made in Stratford, Ontario) where we bought a very tasty sheep cheese to add to our lunch. Paul had already popped some sausages into one of the pots of simmering tomato sauce, so once they were done, we took a well deserved break and sat down to our first taste of the 2010 tomato sauce. Coupled with a braised italian sausage, fresh ciabatta bun, a wedge of Monforte cheese and of course, a bottle of wine, we raised our glasses in honour of the 10th Anniversary Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce!
"In a world gone mad for innovation and change, it's the small pleasures that keep us sane. And in the constellation of small pleasures that salve the mind and nourish the body, what trumps the sheer sensual deliciousness of a well-crafted cheese? At Monoforte, we're convinced the small things do indeed make a difference, that agriculture is best practiced on a human scale, and that our cheeses, each in its own quiet way, reflect something a little deeper than the technology behind mass manufactured food – a little of the poetry and passion of life itself."

 I was inspired by this quotation from Monforte. It echoes my feelings about our annual tradition, where good friends make the time, and take the time, to enjoy life's simple pleasures. Because life is too short — a fact we were painfully aware of on the first Tomato Sauce Day, September 15, 2001.

Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce


  • 3 bushels roma tomatoes
  • 2 750ml bottles extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 heads of garlic, chopped coarsley
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 6 156ml cans Tomato Paste
  • 8 hot banana peppers (or jalapeno), whole
  • 6 eggplants, sliced and grilled
  • 12 onions, sliced and grilled
  • salt to taste


A day before making the Tomato Sauce, grill the eggplant and onions until golden, then wrap in tin foil overnight. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch tomatoes a handful at a time until skins are loose and wrinkled, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes into cold water, letting them cool slightly. The skins will just fall off. Cut the tomatoes in half, squeezing out the water and seeds, and toss the tomatoes in a colander to drain. Discard the waste. Make the bouquet garni: using a piece of string, tie together 1/4 bunch each of parsley, oregano and thyme, leaving a length of string attached so it can be retrieved from the pot. In a large pot, combine 2 cups of olive oil and 1 head of chopped garlic and sweat until aromatic, then add enough blanched tomatoes to fill the pot to 3/4. Add 1/4 of grilled eggplants and onions, bouquet garni, 2 banana peppers, 2 cans of tomato paste and salt to taste. (Repeat process with additional pots until all tomatoes are used). Simmer the tomato mixture uncovered over a med-low heat, 2-3 hours, stirring frequently, to prevent the sauce from sticking. Cook until the sauce has thickened and become a lovely auburn color. To store, let mixture cool, then portion into tupperware containers, garnishing each with a basil leaf. Tomato sauce can be frozen and stored 12-18 months.